To hear his family speak, Dominic Deiro is still very much alive.
His father remembers the little boy he played catch with. The loyal son. The good friend.
“We both enjoyed sports … he loved the Giants,” said Mark Deiro.
His mother Carrie Del Cima speaks of his fashion sense.
“He loved to dress well, his baseball hats always matching his outfit,” she said.
“I could tell that he was becoming more focused on his future, and it is devastating that he did not get a chance to go further,” Douglass said.
On Dec. 22, 2011, Deiro’s spirited life was cut short in a fatal car accident in Stockton. The driver of the vehicle was inebriated. He lost control.
Deiro’s stepbrother and three friends were in critical condition.
Deiro, however, had excessive brain damage, far more severe than the other passengers.
He was taken off life support the day after the accident.
“When older people pass away, it’s expected, but when you lose a child, it’s horrible,” said Mark Deiro of his son’s death.
Dominic Deiro’s family, though, is making sure his memory lives on.
After his death, Douglass and the family began the Dominic’s Designated Driver (DDD) program, an official non-profit organization devoted to promoting sober driving and teaching people to think twice before making a bad decision.
Orange and black wristbands were created, to be worn by a designated driver, indicating that he or she will not drink for the night.
The colors are a nod to Deiro’s favorite baseball team.
DDD is recognized by the San Joaquin County Sheriff, AAA and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
“Our main focus is to save other families from having to undergo a similar tragedy. We really want to raise awareness about personal responsibility and accountability, traits that Dominic used in his daily life with his friends,” Douglass said. “My family is not going to stop fighting for this cause because we believe in it and hold it very close to our hearts.”
Two scholarships were also given by DDD to the schools Deiro attended. The task was to write an essay about friendship.
Deiro is also being remembered for his own writing.
Before his passing, he wrote an essay for his English 79 class about his position on the DREAM Act.
“Imagine being in high school all four years, making friends … what if that were ripped away from you in one second because you were an illegal alien about to be deported?” he wrote. “I, along with many other Americans, believe this type of treatment to be inhumane.”
The essay, titled “I Have A Dream” was initially published in Delta Winds, a magazine of student essays.
Because of that exposure, the essay was picked for publication in a national textbook, Real Writing. English Instructor and Delta Winds co-editor Bob Bini informed Deiro of the honor.
Deiro told his sister first.
“I was actually the one that went around, bragging to everyone … He didn’t like to brag or boast about his personal accomplishments,” said Douglass
It came to no shock to Deiro’s father, about how humble his son handled the impressive news.
“I didn’t realize he had that in him. He had that emotional tie to immigrants. He didn’t have an ego; he just went out and did it. I’m just so proud of him,” Mark Deiro said.
Bini had never met Dominic Deiro in person. The two communicated through phone calls and email. It was the publisher’s representative that let Bini know Deiro had passed away.
Through his writing, Bini felt a connection to him. Today, he uses Deiro’s story in the writing lab to teach other students about essay structure.
That’s one of the many connections and bonds Deiro made with people.
“I would say that close to 100 people showed up to the hospital … I was amazed to see the large group of friends that he had. We couldn’t go anywhere in Stockton without him knowing someone,” Douglass said.
No matter how much is achieved in Deiro’s memory, the loss is still very fresh for the family.
“He could be here and quiet, but his presence speaks loudly. Just him being here is comforting, just his presence,” Mark Deiro said.
Del Cima describes her son as a profoundly empathic soul, sensitive to all the people he encountered.
“Dominic was a beautiful young man, inside and out. I miss him every second of every minute of every day … anyone who ever knew him feels the same way, I’m sure,” she said.
FIND OUT MORE
For information on the program and ways to donate to the Dominic’s Designated Driver visit dominicdesignateddriver.com.
Donations can also be sent to Dominic’s Designated Driver, 8690 Aero Drive, Suite 115-164, San Diego, CA 92123.